Comment of Sharon Hart to PEC Council, November 26, 2019

Sharon Hart: Hi. My name is Sharon Hart. I was not prepared to stand up here … Paul, my partner Paul usually does that piece of the work. I’m more of a chain – I would chain myself to a statue or something – not that I’m going to. I did want to get up and talk about the sanitization issue. And, I don’t think that’s what we’re asking for. We’re asking for a deferment, so we can have a conversation. And, one of the other things, that Dr. Niigan said was, “When we monumentize people, we have to ask ourselves, ‘Whose story is being told? Whose story is not being told? And why is that?’” I’m really sorry that there was a Council meeting that night, too. I don’t know if you’ve all had the opportunity to listen to the recording. Has anybody heard Dr. Niigan’s recording?

Mayor Ferguson: It was a Planning (chuckles) …

Councillor McNaughton: It’s not …

Sharon Hart: Huh?

Mayor Ferguson: It was a Planning Meeting that night. Anyway, go on. [NOTE: It was not a Planning Meeting, but a Council Meeting].

Sharon Hart: I know, but has anybody heard his speech?

Mayor Ferguson: I don’t know that we’re interested in hearing a [inaudible].

Councillor McNaughton: It’s not available in full.

Mayor Ferguson: Yeah.

Sharon Hart: It can be.

Councillor McNaughton: Huh?

Sharon Hart: So, in my mind, I don’t know how we can do these land acknowledgements, and then put up monuments to people like Macdonald. We already … we have the statue, and I guess, the discussion is, What to do with it? And, I think it’s a heck of a lot easier to have the discussion before it’s re-instated. Um, the thing around his story, Macdonald’s story, that upsets me the most is the whole residential school piece of it. And what we did to the children. And how that has perpetuated inter-generational trauma. And I’ve worked my whole life with children and young people who have been traumatized. And I’ll tell you it changes, it changes your brain. An un-traumatized brain is there for connecting with others. Someone’s who’s been traumatized is now on alert and is worried. And I volunteer at the library every week. And I can’t imagine walking past this statue, as I go into work with the youth group there. So, we’re asking for a deferment tonight. Thank you.

Mayor Ferguson: Thank you. Any questions? No? OK, thank you … Oh, I’m sorry, Councillor Roberts, question?.

Councillor Roberts: Yeah, I had a question.

Sharon Hart: Yes, sir.

Councillor Roberts: I’m wondering, if part of the discussion that we have, and the conversations that we have with the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, could also – I’m looking for your opinion – could also include something like what the city of Windsor did a couple of years ago – it was two Septembers ago – they erected a very beautiful and respectful of the Shawnee warrior, Tecumseh. It’s to look at the other side of the discussion, which is, How do we create things that are memorials and remembrances of great Indigenous leadership, as well? Is that part of what you see as going forward?

Sharon Hart: Well, wouldn’t that be amazing, you know! Because then we’re answering that question, “Whose story are we telling?” My understanding – like this plaque – I can’t even imagine … on one of the community boards today, people were talking and chatting about this, and I said, ”You know, I was in my forties before I heard this story about residential schools. And it was up in the Northwest Territories. And we sat with elders. And there was an educator [Ms. X, tonight] , who said, “We’re now talking to kids about this.” – which in some ways is even … like, I can’t imagine taking my child over to the library and this statue’s going to be kind of new for kids, right? “Oh, mom, what’s that, who’s that?” “Well, that’s, you know, that’s our first Prime Minister, honey …”

Mayor Ferguson: Any other questions?

Sharon Hart: … and then, is the conversation going to continue, “… and, this is what he did to …?” So, I don’t know about these conversations that we think we’re all going to have.

Ferguson: Councillor McNaughton?

Councillor McNaughton: So, one of the big question marks with this whole process that sort of the library is taking the lead on is the whole public space aspect. And how do we address public spaces, so that we’re presenting, so that we’re not closing the doors on some people, where we’re managing to create an open door for everyone. And that is what Councillor Roberts was referring to and what you’re talking about now is part of how the library or the Library Board currently is looking at moving forward with this. The one missing piece of the puzzle is First Nations’ consultation and I just wanted for … there has been some, because we’ve been working with several members of the community, but one of the interesting pieces of the puzzle that fell into place for me was, at one point, when we were discussing, requesting guidance, we were told, “Hey, this is up to you! We don’t have to reconcile anything! This is for you to reconcile!” And, I think that is something I’ve carried away with me, and I’ve taken to heart, that this is our responsibility, and I do … I agree with what you said, that we do need to take our land acknowledgement statements very seriously. So, I want to thank you for speaking tonight.

Mayor Ferguson: OK, thank you very much.

Comment of Carlin Thompson to PEC Council, November 26, 2019

My name is CarlinThompson. I’m speaking to Deputation 7.4 – in support of it. I am an educator. I’ve worked in an Indigenous community for a number of years. My niece lives in Prince Edward County and she is an Indigenous girl. I am concerned about what glorifying characters of history like John A. Macdonald means for her. To your point of sanitizing history, I don’t believe it’s sanitizing history. I believe what Mr. Allen is suggesting is that we present a clearer picture of history that doesn’t negate the experiences of our Indigenous people. Something else that was mentioned, talking about engaging our community partners, Indigenous people in our communities. But it’s more than just that. It’s also engaging residents of Prince Edward County and being an example for other communities, perhaps, where Indigenous people … Look, Indigenous people should be safe, across Canada, that it’s not just about who lives here, it’s about who lives in North America, on Turtle Island. And, Prince Edward County should not sanitize our history, but present a full picture. Thank you.

Comment of Annette McIntosh to PEC Council, November 26, 2019

Hello, my name is Nat McIntosh. I’m speaking to Item 7.4, Paul Allen’s deputation that Council should defer the re-installation of the Sir John A. Macdonald statue until there’s been further opportunity for residents in the County to learn of this pending change in our common space, and to share their perspectives with Council. I thank Paul Allen for his deputation. I agree with what he has to say and I support his deputation. I came here tonight because of a November 14th Gazette article entitled “Macdonald’s statue sparks reconciliation dialogue” written by Sarah Williams. Dr. Niigan Sinclair, an Indigenous writer, educator, and advocate, and columnist for The Winnipeg Free Press, spoke at an event hosted by the County Library helps beginning xxxx broader exploration of Sir John A. Macdonald’s legacy, given the imminent resurrection of this familiar statue to be placed in the Library forecourt by month’s end. What Dr. Sinclair said xxx to me in the article and I quote, “After the event, Dr. Sinclair spoke with the Gazette. He stated that I just had a group of probably a dozen people all agree – most of them not Indigenous – saying that they don’t feel safe with that statue around, because it’s a reminder of the perpetrator of genocide. Sinclair argued that it is up to us to re-contextualize Macdonald’s actions within a broader historical context for the sake of future generations. He stated, “Our children watch us and look to see who we hold up. Our children act accordingly, to how we have mentored them into those actions. And, if we hold up someone, who perpetrated genocide, our children will act a certain way, and we shouldn’t be surprised. Or, maybe our children will reject us, and then we’ve created a conflict with our children. Violence is violence is violence. That’s the most straightforward thing can say,” concluded Dr. Sinclair. Doesn’t that say it all? It does to me. I hope Council supports Paul Allen’s deputation. Thank you.

Comment of Angela Lammes to PEC Council, November 26, 2019

Hello, my name is Angela Lammes and I’m speaking to Item 7.4. I agree with Paul Allen that Council should defer the re-installation of the Macdonald “Holding Court” statue until there’s been further opportunity for residents in the County to learn of this pending change in our common space, and to share their perspectives with Council. It’s the year 2019, and we now all know the good, the bad, and the ugly of Macdonald’s legacy. Let’s discuss this before he’s moved to in front of our beautiful Carnegie library – hopefully, he’s not. Thank you.

Deputation of Paul Allen to PEC Council, November 26, 2019

Slide 1 – Deputation of Paul Allen to PEC Council, November 26, 2019.

Paul Allen: Good evening, Mr. Mayor and Councillors.

Slide 2 – “Holding Court” in Picton.

Paul Allen: I want to thank you all first for giving me an opportunity this evening to share my concerns about the municipality’s plan to re-install the Macdonald “Holding Court” statue on Picton Main Street in the near future, as I understand it.

I also wanted to commend the municipality – and its Library Board, especially – for recognizing the value and, indeed, the necessity of combining any resurrection of Macdonald “Holding Court” on Picton Main Street with a series of public conversations about the good, the bad, and frankly, the ugly parts of Macdonald’s involvement in Canada’s early history.

Slide 3 – Where Macdonald Stands.

Paul Allen: When I began, a few weeks ago, to pay more attention to matters to do with Macdonald and Macdonald statues and so on, I first wondered, How many statues can there be in Canada? And I thought, oh I don’t know, there’s probably a hundred, maybe as many as a thousand. When I found my answer on Macleans, it turns out there are a total of 10 statues to Macdonald in all of our country. Half of them were erected in the late 1890s, very shortly after Macdonald’s death, and two of them, including the statue in Picton and another, by the same artist, Ruth Abernathy, in Baden, Ontario, were erected on the two hundredth anniversary of Macdonald’s birthday.

As I’ve been able to reconstruct the conception of the “Holding Court” statue, it seemed to be a project conceived by a group of local residents with an interest in preserving heritage and promoting the history of the County. It was embraced by Council, I believe, as part of a rejuvenation of Picton’s Main Street. So, besides it carrying sort of an historical interest for people, it was also – let’s say at least a small part of a strategic plan that the municipality had for rejuvenating business on Main Street. It was meant to, sort of, keep things from falling down anymore than they already had, as well as to bring a level of tourism and an interest in the heritage and history of the County. So, in a way, it was going to be a focal point.

Slide 4 – Senator Murray Sinclair and the TRCC.

Paul Allen: 2015 – besides being the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of John A. Macdonald – was also the year that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada published its findings and its calls-to-action. The Commission was lead by then Justice, now Senator Murray Sinclair. He spent six years interviewing hundreds of victims and survivors – if they can be called survivors – of institutional abuse in our country. These were young men and women, parents, and grandparents who had been through the wringer in Canada.

Tonight it’s hard to talk about that report and what it found, because you end up recognizing things about this country, its early history, and the so-called Father of Confederation who, until at least 2015 or so, had been held in very high esteem. I can remember, you know, singing songs in 1967 as we were celebrating Canada. It was sort of our great awakening as a nation, and we were looking for heroes, like George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, and there weren’t many to hand. But John A. Macdonald, as I was a school boy, was held up, and he was an object of tremendous pride and interest on the part of Canadians. So, it was a tremendous shock for me, I know, to learn a lot more about this man’s involvement in shaping the history of our country. And that his dream for a transcontinental railway, and his impatience to see that dream realized in his lifetime, really forced upon the Indigenous peoples in the Prairies, especially, treaties that were to their disadvantage – the use of food to compel them to come into an agreement with treaties that weren’t in their interest – and the use of the residential school system to break up families and interrupt the passing of culture and values from one generation of Indigenous peoples to another.

Slide 5 – Cultural Genocide

Paul Allen: It’s hard to hear the words “genocide” and “Canada” being brought together. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission softens the blow a little bit, because they don’t come out and say “It was “genocide” full stop. They add, it was “cultural genocide”. So, it was something short of the physical extermination of a peoples because of who they are, or what they believe. But it did target, in Canada, virtually every aspect that set them apart as a distinct peoples. And, “cultural genocide” whether it’s in Canada, or anywhere else, is recognized as involving these sorts of practices, where land is seized, where populations are forcibly transferred and their movement is restricted. Where languages are banned. Where spiritual leaders are persecuted. Where families are disrupted to prevent the transmission of traditions and identity from one generation to the next. All of these things happened in Canada. And they happened at the behest of John Macdonald. They couldn’t have proceeded without his steady hand, and his determination to see his dream through. So, he is not an incidental participant in this. He was the architect.

Slide 6 – Where Macdonald Stood.

Paul Allen: It’s interesting – my PowerPoint refuses to display where Macdonald stood – sorry, where he stood on the issue of residential schools. (NOTE: When presented to Council, the text of Macdonald’s address did not appear on the slide). But he was unequivocal. In the House of Commons in 1883 he said, “When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with his parents, who are savages. He’s surrounded by savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits, and training, and mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write.” And the conclusion that he drew was, you had to take that kid away from his family, as far away as you could manage, and insulate him between the language and the culture of his family, so that he could be taught properly.

In my work in children’s mental health, I can tell you that I have seen the effects of this type of abuse of children over the many generations. I’ve worked with kids and families from across Ontario, from Nunavut, from Labrador. I’ve consulted to programs in Saskatchewan that work with lots of Indigenous kids. My colleagues have been asked by the Coroner in Ontario to be parts of investigations of the deaths of Indigenous children in the care of children’s aid societies in this province, even as we speak today. So, for , when I hear about the residential school system and its victimization of Indigenous peoples, it’s not something in the past. It’s something that’s very much alive in our communities. And, I can assure you that the children I met, are every bit as beautiful as my own. The families of these children love their kids every bit as much as I love my kids. They’re as clear about the struggles that they’re facing – they judge themselves at least as harshly as anybody I’ve ever heard speak ill of Indigenous peoples. They’re well aware of their shortcomings. They’re trying to get themselves back on their feet. And, they’re trying to get us out of their way.

Slide 7 – Victoria, BC in 2018.

Paul Allen: As Canadians have come to grips with John Macdonald, you know, the cities across the nation who have these statues of the man in place, have found themselves, either at their own instigation, or at the instigation of Indigenous peoples in their communities, to have a look at who they’re honouring and how they’re memorializing historical figures. And, Macdonald has come into a lot of scrutiny – not just because he’s the so-called Father of Confederation, but because of his very direct, personal involvement in the establishment and the operation of the residential school system. And his clear articulation of the racism that underlies those policies in our country.

Probably Victoria has gone the farthest. I don’t know that they are happy that they did so, but they lead the way, in really taking a hard look at what it meant to honour John A. Macdonald. I don’t know that they’ve yet come to a resolution, but at least at some point in 2018, they decided, you know, we have to remove this statue, at least temporarily. We can put a plaque in its place. It’s a marker there. We’re not going to melt the thing down and make it into coins or medallions or use it to honour other people who may not have the same history as Macdonald. But we can’t simply ignore the struggles in our community, and what this kind of memorial represents to Indigenous peoples. We have to do something, besides assure them that we share their pain, but that they have to understand history is history, and everything has a context, and who would we be to judge Sir John A. Macdonald for what he did so long ago?

Mayor Ferguson: Paul, can I ask you to …

Paul Allen: Yes – hurry up?

Mayor Ferguson: Yep.

Paul Allen: So, I don’t know exactly what went on in Picton back in 2015. Whether this was seen as a gift horse that you didn’t want to look in the mouth of. Whether it’s the sort of thing, you were sort of sorry you got yourself into, because there was that bloody Truth and Reconciliation Commission that published its findings, just on the eve of the opening of this monument on Main Street.

There were some issues raised by Letters to the Editor, the Editor of The Picton Gazette himself had some Commentary to offer, at least about residential schools. But, really, the committee – I mean, the community – here was very quiet about the connection between Macdonald and the residential school system. And there didn’t seem to be a lot of official hesitation about unveiling the statue.

Slide 8 – Education key in wake of residential schools’ damage.
Slide 9 – Macdonald too flawed to celebrate with statue in his honour.
Slide 10 – Speakers acknowledge Macdonald’s shortcomings, celebrate his vision and service.

Mayor Ferguson:

Mayor Ferguson: Paul, I’m going to have to ask you to wrap it up.

Paul Allen: Yep.

Slide 11 – Dr. Niiganwewidam Sinclair.

Paul Allen: So a couple of weeks ago I went to the first of a series of public presentations lead by, actually, a fellow who turns out to be Senator Sinclair’s son, Niigan Sinclair. And he spoke for an hour and a half and answered questions, spoke very forthrightly. And he was asked a question:

Slide 12 – Question for Dr. Sinclair.

Paul Allen: “What would you have done with the monument, if it were up to you?” I don’t think it was a fair question for him, but he gave an answer anyway.

Slide 13 – Reflection of Dr. Sinclair.

Paul Allen: And, he said, as a newcomer and as an Indigenous person what I would say is, I would ask myself, “How do Indigenous peoples in this territory feel about you putting up a monument to John A. Macdonald?” And if your answer is, “We don’t know” – then you need to start there.

Figure 14 – For Council (and the rest of us).

Paul Allen: I would say, we in the room and Council, also have to include “How do non-Indigenous people feel about this statue coming up?” I don’t think anybody in this room has the answer to that question, because I don’t think it’s been asked by anybody.

Figure 15 – Picturing Our Community.

Paul Allen: I think you have the perfect opportunity with the guy in storage to leave him there until you have the chance to have that conversation in this community, about how people feel about bringing John A. Macdonald back onto Picton Main Street. It’s not a straightforward issue, and I think you would be wise not to treat it as such. Thanks.

Mayor Ferguson: OK, thank you, Paul.

Paul Allen: Sorry I went long.

Mayor Ferguson: OK, questions from Members of Council? Anybody have any questions? Councillor Roberts.

Councillor Roberts: Paul, thank you for your deputation. A very good friend of mine, Marie Wilson, was also a Commissioner on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She reminds me, that of the ninety plus recommendations in the TRC report, not one of them asks for the removal of a name, or a statue, either from a school, or from a municipality, or anywhere from a park. So, in some ways, what she was getting at, or what some of the Commission was getting at, was rather than, rather than look at something like sanitizing history, could we be better off by engaging in conversation and dialogue around those pivot points in history that deserve more scrutiny, and that deserve more challenge, rather than trying to remove selectively parts of our history? I think that’s a very valid consideration in re-installing the statue.

I also think that … – I’ve heard people say, following Dr. Sinclair’s presentation – which, by all accounts, was brilliant, astute, challenging, even exciting – that maybe the Mohawk should have been consulted regarding the statue, ideally consulted. That leaves the impression that the Committee which brought the statue forward 2015 didn’t reach out. But in fact they did, but didn’t get a response. And that, to me, Paul, speaks to something which is a really over-arching issue – and that is the absence of conversation between our community and the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. And the only “gold star” that I can think to pin anywhere is our Prince Edward County Museums staff, who I believe have done an excellent job of creating that dialogue, and that conversation, at a very human and personal level.

Paul Allen: Yep.

Councillor Roberts: I also think it’s a mistake to say that … and I know your intentions are excellent, Paul – but to say that John A. Macdonald was not an incidental participant in what has happened …

Paul Allen: Right.

Councillor Roberts: I think, we are not incidental participants, our parents are not incidental participants, and our grandparents aren’t incidental participants. So, where does it stop? And, where does it start? If all that has happened in terms of the terrible crimes visited on our Indigenous peoples, was at the catalyst of Sir John A. Macdonald, our first Prime Minister, then why are so many terrible, terrible things enduring 129 years in this country after his death?

So, again, it brings me to a place which says, Let’s use those artifacts, which are true history. He was a lawyer here …

Mayor Ferguson: Councillor Roberts, is there a question here?

Councillor Roberts: Paul, is anything I’m saying making any sense to you – in terms of your position?

Paul Allen: Look, my opinion of John A. Macdonald is pretty firm. I don’t disagree, though, that there needs to be conversation with people about what we do with this. I’m not clear that I want to erase him, in terms of statues. Take the statues off all the cities’ lots in Canada, or take his name off all the schools. What I am saying, though, is it’s very meaningful that he’s being memorialized. It’s very disturbing for me, it’s very disturbing for a lot of Indigenous peoples, and talking about “contextualizing” or “putting signage” or having “art installations in the neighbourhood” is fine – and maybe that’s how we resolve this issue in our communities, one at a time. My concern, here, is that that conversation doesn’t seem to be recognized as important. And, it should happen before you bring the statue back onto Main Street. In my view. I’m not saying, “It shouldn’t come back.” But how, and even where, it should come back, to me … there’s a lot of important issues here. I could see a difference between having him outside the Court House, as opposed to outside the Library, for reasons I don’t need to get into, right now. But there are issues like that. And, I don’t … I can’t speak to why MBQ was involved or not involved, or whatever. You know, if people truly don’t have the interest, and they don’t show up, or they won’t even tell you why, that’s one thing. I don’t feel I’m ready to accept that that’s the case here, right?

Mayor Ferguson: Councillor McNaughton.

Councillor McNaughton: Thank you. Hi!

Paul Allen: Hi!

Councillor McNaughton: Thank you. So, we’ve discussed this a few times. We’ve had some good opportunities to discuss this. And, I would really thank you for bringing this forward. As I wander around this town, I hear this perspective quite a lot, as you know. I hear …

Paul Allen: Which perspective, sorry?

Councillor McNaughton: … yours. Well, actually, perhaps the perspective, “Why is it coming back at all?” including at a birthday party, and Books and Company, in front of the Library, several times. There are people in this room that I have spoken to, about this very topic, “Why is it coming back?” So, I really appreciate your being here. I also have sort of … was raised, was bathed in, the idea of Macdonald being a great man. My dad adored him and his drinking habits – all folded in together. He was a bit of a fan of Macdonald. And, I grew up with Pierre Berton’s books and I grew up with the mythology, which is based in reality. I do, however, and we’ve discussed it before, I do want to see that statue back on the street, at this point, I think. So, I’m looking forward to the public conversation that it allows us to have. I see our town as a place where that conversation can begin. And, not just for our community, but many, as tourists walk through this town, as tens of thousands of people walk through this town, every year. Engaging in an interactive statue, they might learn something from signage, but I … or from how we address the public space. And, I haven’t had an opportunity to discuss what the library plans are with all of Council together, but I’m still, at this point, trying to keep an open mind, and trying to believe in an open process of consultation that begins with the Library Speakers Series. I hear what you’re saying about not having the statue’s presence in the interim. I certainly think that it’s a concern to have it back without some sort of signage recognizing that this process is going forward.

Mayor Ferguson: Is there a question?

Councillor McNaughton: Does there have to be? (chuckles) There doesn’t necessarily have to be. Not in the Code of Conduct or the Procedural Manual. But, I do, actually, have a question. So, if the statue does come back … because we were told – you and I were told, that it was coming back, probably the week, last week, or as … very soon, in the very near future. If it did come back, and there was some signage to address that there’s a process going forward, does that help? That there’s a process of consultation going forward? I don’t know either. I’m just …

Paul Allen: I don’t mean to duck your question, but I don’t think that I’m really to best person to ask.

Councillor McNaughton: Oh, I’m only asking for your perspective.

Paul Allen: Oh, my perspective …

Councillor McNaughton: Just your perspective. Because I am trying to get in contact with …

Paul Allen: You know, I have so idea what signage you’re speaking about – or who would be in agreement with it.

Councillor McNaughton: Me either.

Paul Allen: You know, I would be one vote, and, by far, not the most important vote.

Councillor McNaughton: No. OK.

Mayor Ferguson: Councillor Margetson.

Councillor Margetson: Thank you, Paul. That’s a very thoughtful and informative deputation, and I really appreciate your effort to bring this issue forward. And I appreciate your words. I’m just wondering, do you have any thought about what process we might go through, in terms of public consultation, and what that might entail, if you were going to … what are your thoughts on that process going forward? If we didn’t accept the statue back? I was expecting to see it this week, when the fence came down, so I mean, it’s not there yet, but what is your thought on a process going forward? Do you have any … have you thought about that?

Paul Allen: You know, I don’t know if I know enough about your structure, or even the history, but I went last week to speak to the Heritage Advisory Committee, thinking that they might (chuckles) be of some help. But, I would kind of put this sort of discussion, or this sort of issue, in the context of some body you already have. So, if you have a group of people, with a background and an interest in the history and heritage of the place, and if they have any Indigenous people on that Board, all the better, and if they don’t, maybe they could spearhead the outreach to the MBQ. You have local Indigenous leaders, like Troy Maracle and Summer Bertrand, who work with the Board of Education. Whether they’re your links or the connectors with MBQ at large, I don’t know. I believe Niigan Sinclair, if you can stand him, would be ready to be a resource or a consultant to people.

You know, Murray Sinclair says this disaster took 150 years to create, and it’s going to take about that long or longer to get it right. So, there is no ready answer. And, I’m sure, there’s every reason to be hesitant to even open up this can of worms, because who knows where you’re going to go with it. And, in Victoria, it was a very difficult conversation. I just think it’s … you’re going, you’re going to get into a difficult situation, whether you do it before you bring the thing out, or if you just plop it down on the street, and then say, “Now let’s talk about how you feel.” You’re going to catch it that way. So, I would recommend you be proactive – you can even consult about how you’re going to consult – but you need to at least invite people around the table. And, they have to feel that you’re sincere in the invitation – and, I don’t know, you know, how difficult your relationships are with the Indigenous peoples in this area. I have no idea about that.

Mayor Ferguson: OK. Thank you, Paul.

WCIA also has distinguished legacy in Prince Edward County

Letter to the Editor, The Picton Gazette, September 19, 2019.

Fair and democratic process took a hit at the September 10th council meeting when the Greer Pit application was approved. Council was clearly struggling with the lack of testing and content with the Greer pit application. Local residents and our Association are rightly concerned that more stringent testing and regulation are required before any go-ahead be given.

However, in his comments before the vote was taken the mayor said, “I’m comforted by the fact this operation is being run by a long-standing local family who have 200 years of heritage and history in the municipality. Also, a family who have done their bit for the community. If this application had come forward by another entity, another company, coming from, perhaps, away, I think we would all have more concerns.”

If the mayor needed comforting over this decision then it wasn’t ready for approval. If an applicant can get a proposal passed not by the merits of the application then we in the County of Prince Edward have a problem.

The Warings Creek Improvement Association have also done their “bit” in the community. We have spent the last 25 years protecting the Warings Creek, surrounding watershed and water supply, from bad policy, made by backward thinking just like this.

Frank Stronach is proposing a 10,000 square foot abattoir in South Marysburgh. It might “comfort” those in opposition to this plan to know there is a good shot it won’t get passed by virtue of the fact that Mr. Stronach is from “away”.

The mayor’s statement was insulting to the residents of the community both new and old. The man at the top has informed us that there is a two tier system in Prince Edward County. This is an old and tired way of business here and the statement is resignation worthy.

Council can and should have done better than this.

Cheryl O’Brien

Waring’s Creek Improvement Association

Prime agriculture

Letter to the Editor, The Wellington Times, September 4, 2019.

With great interest and deep concern, I read the article, Digging deep, in the August 29, 2019 edition of The Times. The article had to do with the proposal of a company, in the farming and construction industries, to remove and then replace topsoil in an area beside Ridge Road. Currently, the soil supports an asparagus farm owned by the same company.

I am not a geologist, nor would I profess to know a great deal about the issue presented, it does seem to me, however, to be a risky business removing the sand from under the existing soil with the intent of place the topsoil back on an area that houses the water table. Even though I am a lay person as far as hydrogeology is concerned, I cannot help but think that four things will be the result: One, the replaced soil will be soggy and unusable; Two, there will be another “lake” next to the one that already exists; Three, the water table will be disturbed and rendered useless, not only for the owners but also for residents along the line, and Four, Ontario will lose another piece of prime agricultural land. This last point is the most important.

I am happy to see the council has deferred the matter for further consideration. It would seem advisable to have this whole matter studied rigorously before coming to any final conclusion.

Robert O. Scrivens

One big hole

Letter to the Editor, The Wellington Times, September 4, 2019.

To change prime agriculture land to a sand pit to extract about 20,000 tons or about 600 truck loads of sand a year will leave a big hole. If the County needs that much, it has to come from somewhere. My concern is rehabilitation. There are several worked out sand pits on Ridge Road, including the one the County paid $3,000,000 for to two former County politicians. Would a member of council or anyone else show me a sand pit in the County that has been rehabilitated? Or is this another environmental problem we will be passing on to future generations.

Dave Gray, Wellington

Background Document – August 27, 2019


Application for Official Plan and Zoning By-Law Amendments
Paul and Sandi Greer, Greenridge Asparagus Farm
1002 Ridge Road, Picton


In 2016, Paul and Sandi Greer purchased Greenridge Asparagus Farm at 1002 Ridge Road. It has been a well- known asparagus farm for many years. The farm is located in a rural area 7 km south west of Picton. Ridge Road runs between highway 10 in the east and highway 12 in the west. The road has fifty rural residential homes, dairy and cash -crop farming, and aggregate (sand/gravel) pits.

When the Greers purchased the asparagus farm in 2016, the objective was to obtain a licence to change the use of the property so they could begin excavating aggregate. This requires amendments to the County’s Official Plan and Zoning By-Laws.

Residents of Ridge Road and Shannon Road first became aware of the application in November 2017 when the process to acquire a provincial aggregate extraction licence began. A number of residents opposed the application in December 2017 and made deputations opposing it at a Planning Public Council meeting on May 16, 2018. At a recent Planning Public Council meeting held on August 21, 2019, residents opposed the Planning Department’s recommendation to approve the application. Prior to and at the August 21st Council meeting, residents asked that the decision be deferred. As people only had 48 hours notice that a decision was being considered, and as there were 350+ pages of documents, they could not reasonably be expected to review the materials in advance of the meeting. Council deferred the decision to September 10, 2019, as they themselves also had unanswered questions. On September 10th, Council is expected to approve or deny the application.

Key Questions

1. What Official Plan and Zoning By-Laws are the Applicants asking Council to approve?

  • Amendment of the County’s Official Plan, changing the property’s land use from Prime Agricultural to Aggregate.
  • Amending the zoning by-law, changing the property designation from Rural 2 to Extractive Mineral Industrial.

2. Why are residents on Ridge Road and Shannon Road concerned about the proposal?

There are generally three reasons that residents are concerned about the proposal and the primary concern is protecting water.


  • Waring Creek is an environmentally protected creek that runs through the asparagus farm property. The excavation and operation of a new sand and gravel pit poses a threat to Waring’s Creek and watershed, an integral part of the well water that local residents depend on.
  • As there are already well-documented water shortages in the County, it is critical to preserve natural watersheds that supply local wells in rural areas.
  • Sand and gravel around Waring’s Creek acts as a natural filter slowly absorbing rain and snow and dispersing water back into the creek, wells, and watershed (like a sponge). Extracting aggregate disturbs this natural ecosystem, which is known as a perched water system.
  • Chemical contaminants used in the extraction process and in the storage and crushing of concrete affect the quality of well water. Concrete can leach bitumen, lead, and coal tar into soil and groundwater.
  • Studies conducted during the application process identify the importance of the separation (distance) between groundwater and extraction activities. There are risks to the water table if this separation does not occur. Seasonal water levels and the topography of the property present challenges in ensuring that excavation does not hit the water table.
  • There is concern that measurements used to determine water levels (known as masl-metres above sea level) are out of date. To ensure that aggregate extraction does not breach the water table, the data must be reliable. The plan to test water levels “periodically,” is too risky when the quality and quantity of water may be harmed. Testing must be rigorous, clearly defined, regular and prescribed. “Periodic” is too broad, open to interpretation and difficult to enforce.

Environmental Impact

  • There are concerns about the detrimental impacts created by noise, dust, contaminants, exhaust, an increased number of haulage trucks, and concrete crushing, all in an area where over 50 families live.
  • There are quality of life impacts such as road safety- including limitations on walking and cycling when faced with large haulage trucks and equipment on a road that is quite narrow.

Cumulative Impact of Another Aggregate Pit on Ridge Road:

  • There are currently four active aggregate pits along Ridge Road. The cumulative impact of adding another pit compounds the water and environmental issues described above.
  • The continuous removal of sand and gravel from a number of other aggregate pits in a relatively small area, removes the natural materials that are critical to the functioning of the watershed.
  • In 1999, the County in a decision of the Ontario Municipal Board, identified the need to undertake a cumulative analysis for future aggregate extraction along Ridge Road. Although never undertaken, this type of analysis should have been a key consideration in the review of this aggregate pit application and future pit applications along Ridge Road.
  • A cumulative impact analysis has been requested since residents first learned of this application in 2017. And those who were involved in the OMB decision in 1999 have advocated for a cumulative analysis for over 20 years. The community wants to know the impact of this application, in conjunction with other aggregate extraction underway along Ridge Road. However, the County’s planning department is recommending that such an analysis is not needed.

3. Don’t we need aggregate for roads and building construction?

  • Yes, sand and gravel are needed for roads and building construction. But in weighing and balancing water shortages vs aggregate shortages, consideration and priority must be given to protecting water. In a county where drought conditions are more frequent water cannot be compromised.

4. Aren’t the Applicants going to replant asparagus once the aggregate extraction is completed?

  • Yes, this is a requirement of an aggregate licence when the land is zoned prime agricultural. The land must be rehabilitated to its original agricultural purpose following the completion of aggregate extraction.
  • Aggregate extraction must also be implemented “in phases” across a property and rehabilitation must occur as each phase of extraction is completed.

5. How much aggregate will be extracted each year and how long will it take to complete?

  • Based on the application up to 20,000 tons of aggregate will be excavated each year and the proposed three- phase extraction process has been said to take 75 years to complete.
  • This means that for the next 75 years, there will be different phases of pit activity – getting ready to excavate, actual excavation, and rehabilitation. This raises important questions about compliance and monitoring, as well as what will occur if the property is sold during the 75-year life of this aggregate pit.

6. Weren’t studies completed to support the proposal?

  • Yes, the application includes studies about groundwater, Waring Creek, dust and noise and the natural environment. A site plan was developed indicating where extraction would occur on the property. These reports of over 350 pages of technical content were received 48 hours before the Public Planning Council meeting on August 21st.
  • We are concerned that the cumulative impact of another aggregate pit on Ridge Road has not been assessed. We are concerned that tests related to determining the level of the water table are out of date and not reliable. We are concerned that issues raised by the Waring Creek Improvement Association about damaging the perched water ecosystem have not been considered. Residents in the area put all of these issues forward in December 2017. From the community’s perspective, there has been an unsatisfactory response to our concerns, and as a result we fear that our water and wells continue to be at risk.

7. How Can You Help?

Contact or email Members of Council ( and urge them not to proceed with a decision on the Greers’ application until all of the community’s concerns are addressed:

  • a cumulative impact analysis
  • reliable groundwater level testing, and
  • Waring Creek Improvement Association’s concerns about protecting the perched water system and watershed.

For more information about our concerns, please check out Pits.

Protecting Water vs Extracting Aggregate (in the Press)

Some excellent coverage on protecting water vs extracting aggregate in the local countryside has appeared in the press, including: